Re-reading John Fowles' introduction to The Lymiad just before going to press I came across his remark on disliking the injusticies of Regency Lyme. The comment is a distraction, thrown out to take the querulous reader's eye, and draw him off; but the field indicated is a real concern. We do all of us tend, in certain moods, to view history as if able to redistribute the world's favours according to the merits that only our own time (and often only we ourselves) can rank according to their true value. But this is a tyrannical vanity, or rather a vanity that would be a tyrant.

Soberly, we have no way of knowing that our scheme of rewards is anything other than a reflection of self-interest, or a fiction in which we permit ourselves the role of philanthropist in order to patronise past suffering. And when, as now, there is a suspicous consensus on this subject, we can be sure that it is brought about by almost the only thing that all men have in common, envy.